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Food Businesses Support Local Communities During Pandemic

When the going gets tough, the tough get creative.

This has certainly been the case for food businesses across New Jersey. Restaurants that relied on the dining experience have had to flip the switch and perfect their takeout and delivery game. Caterers that depended on weddings and corporate events have had to target new customers. Coffee shops and retail stores have had to make it work without the usual morning and evening rush from NJ commuters.

No doubt about it, Jersey food businesses have been hit hard. But that hasn’t stopped them from rolling up their sleeves, finding new ways to work and giving back their communities.

Recently, we interviewed four food businesses across NJ that have used their creativity and talents to support healthcare workers, the elderly, employees and more. Though our traditional roles include copywriter, food writer and content strategist for food and beverage businesses, we wanted to shift gears and give some local food businesses the exposure they deserve. To help share their stories, we wrote an article that was published on TapInto and NJ Flavor and can be viewed, here.

Hidden Grounds Thinks Outside of the Coffee Box (New Brunswick)

When the stay-at-home orders were first given, many were left feeling helpless. They wanted to contribute and support essential workers, but didn’t know how to do so from home.

Hidden Grounds helped fill that gap.

Owners Anand Patel and Spoorthi Kumar launched a sponsorship coffee program across their Central Jersey and North Jersey locations. Customers purchase coffee boxes that are then sent to nearby hospital staff in Saint Peter’s University Hospital, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and other regional hospitals.

The owners came up with the idea when a relative expressed her desire to help out. Even though she no longer felt comfortable leaving her home, she wanted to contribute and support those who were still going to work.

Hidden Grounds guarantees a minimum of 15 boxes to be delivered each day. If the daily donation does not meet 15, the company covers the difference on the house. Donors can add personalized messages to the boxes and request that deliveries be made to specific hospitals near New Brunswick, Jersey City and Hoboken where the Hidden Grounds shops are located.

To learn more about the sponsorship program, click here.

Confections of a Rock$tar Does Something Sweet for Staff (Asbury Park)

On March 21, Confections of a Rock$tar in Asbury Park put on quite the show. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the beloved rock & roll-themed bakery hosted a Saturday Night Fever Curbside event where all proceeds went to staff. Handling all the baking herself, owner Kimmee Masis prepared cookies, brownies, French macarons and other treats for her sugar-craving customers.

What inspired the groovy bakeoff? Masi points to her hardworking staff whom she considers family and a huge reason for her longstanding success.

The disco-themed event was a sweet escape for customers and a win for the bakery. Masi gave all of the proceeds to her team and was able to help make up for some of the hours and compensation that they’ve lost.

Confections of a Rock$tar has remained closed since the curbside event. While takeout has proven feasible for other businesses, Masi knew that it wouldn’t work for her business that’s known for custom orders and products made entirely from scratch. Quality isn’t something she was willing to compromise on for temporary gains.

In the interim, Masi is focusing on further expanding her business and working on creative projects. One of her current ventures is her video series called “More Famous Than You.” In each episode, she invites a local musician to come into the shop and bake for charity.

Through it all, Masi continues to stay positive and hopeful for the future. Asbury Park is a very tight-knit community and she knows that these businesses won’t crumble. In fact, they’ll come back bigger and better than ever.

Princeton Soup & Sandwich Feeds the Front Lines (Princeton)

In the office, a proper midday lunch can be the difference between a productive afternoon and a wasted one. The stakes are even higher in the hospitals, where healthcare workers are putting in extra hours and testing their endurance like never before.

To provide some much-needed energy and replenishment, Princeton Soup & Sandwich has stepped in with its bagged lunch program.

Owner Lisa Ruddy runs the shop with her daughter, Alexandra Ruddy and their team. The program began when two local businesses bought 100 bagged lunches that were delivered on March 30. Since then, Alexandra created a GoFundMe page and the program has gained momentum ever since.

The initial goal was to raise $10,000 and has since surpassed $15,000. Donors’ names are printed on cards and attached to the bagged lunches for each delivery. Hundreds of bagged lunches have been sent to Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center and Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell.

In addition to running the program, Princeton Soup & Sandwich has done its own part to pay it forward. When a relative of one of the nurses at Penn Medicine donated 20 bagged lunches, the shop matched those 20 to deliver a total of 40 bagged lunches. Although GoFundMe does keep a percentage of donations, the company has vowed to make enough lunches to cover the actual donation total as if no money was taken.

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Ruddy

Alexandra credits the local community for spreading the word and giving the program such momentum. Thanks to the success of the program, Princeton Soup & Sandwich has been able to stay open and continue making delicious, nutritious sandwiches for those at home and those on the front lines.

To donate a bagged lunch and help support the program, visit the Princeton Soup & Sandwich GoFundMe page, here.

Culinary Creations Brings Gourmet Meals to Homes & Hospitals (Hillsborough)

With weddings and virtually every type of social event canceled, you’d never guess that a catering company would still be up and running. Leave it to Culinary Creations in Hillsborough to prove you wrong.

For weeks now, the catering company has been preparing and packaging meals for local senior citizens and healthcare workers. Aiming to lend his skills and help those in need, Owner Andrew Patano transformed his kitchen and business model, shifting from large-scale catering production to individually packaged meals.

With its Meals Deals program, customers can purchase family meals that feed four people for $38-$50. The menu changes daily to give locals a variety of gourmet options including short ribs, filet mignon and much more. Families can view the daily menu on the company’s Instagram page, @culinary_creations. Proceeds from all of the Meal Deals have been used to help feed families in need in the community and those who are elderly and can’t venture out to the grocery stores.

Culinary Creations’ other initiative provides meals for healthcare workers in nearby hospitals. Customers can purchase meals for $10 that will then be donated and delivered to various locations based on customers’ requests. Each delivery also includes a note with donors’ names.

To help save money and ensure that his staff will have jobs to return to, Pantano and his wife have been doing the heavy lifting for both programs. They’ve been working seven days per week from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. to keep the programs going strong and ensure that their business will make it out on the other side. Though he knows that profit is likely to be minimal if anything at this time, Pantano rests his faith on the future generosity and patronage of his loyal customers. He wanted to give back to the community that’s supported his business for the past 25 years and believes that business will return once the dust settles.

To donate meals for healthcare workers and first responders, click here. To purchase a Meal Deal, call Culinary Creations at 908-281-3894.